Category Archives: History

The Wonderful Two Headed Girl – 1869

Advertising The Wonderful Two Headed Girl

The Story of A 19th Century Oddity – Millie Christine

Wonderful Two Headed Girl

While recently highlighting one of the silliest movies ever made, The Thing With Two Heads, we came across stories of other human anomalies.

Co-joined twins Millie and Christine (or Christina) McKoy were famous in the 19th century, sometimes billed as “The Wonderful Two Headed Girl,” “The Two-Headed Nightingale,” or “The Eighth Wonder of the World.”

The truth about this “two headed girl” was quite different than what was advertised. Continue reading

A Tour Of The Jacob Ruppert Brewery – 1939

How Beer Was Made At The Jacob Ruppert Brewery

Ruppert Brewery 3rd Ave 91st St

Massive fortress-like building of the Ruppert Brewery Third Avenue 91st St. 1940  photo: NYC Municpal Archives

Jacob Ruppert is mainly recognized as the man who bought Babe Ruth from the Red Sox in 1919 forever changing baseball. With that one transaction, Ruppert, the Yankees co-owner and his management team began a dynasty.

To older New Yorkers the name Ruppert also meant beer. The Ruppert Brewery was between 91st and 92nd Street from Second to Third Avenue. Continue reading

Lou Gehrig’s Farewell Speech July 4, 1939

“Did My Speech Sound Silly? Did it?”

Lou Gehrig to a friend minutes after making his “Luckiest Man” speech on July 4, 1939, Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day.

Gehrig and Ruth at Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day July 4 1939 photo Binghampton NewsEarly in the day before being honored at Yankee Stadium, Lou Gehrig told a reporter, “There hasn’t been a day since I came up that I wasn’t anxious to get in uniform and out on the field. But today I wish I was anywhere but in this stadium.”

For the ceremony Lou Gehrig was standing on the field for one hour in between games of a doubleheader with the Washington Senators, as accolades and gifts descended upon him.

Mayor Fiorello La Guardia, Postmaster James Farley, Yankee general manager Ed Barrow and current and former teammates and opponents were there. Besides gifts, they all gave Gehrig the one thing he did not want – sympathy. Continue reading

American Magazine Advertising In 1947

50 Advertisements From The 1947 Saturday Evening Post

Champion spark plugs Saturday Evening Post 1947Maybe advertising is not an accurate portrayal of what America is or ever was. But it shines a light on American dreams, living the good life and most of all consumerism.  Today we’re turning back the clock to just after World War II.

Saeurday Evening Post 1947All the ads appear in the February 8, 1947 Saturday Evening Post, a bastion of conservative American values.

American soldiers returning home to a prosperous economy. A baby boom follows. Spend, America, spend.

Ajax CombOne thing you’ll notice if you read the fine print: EVERYTHING was “Made in America.” Everything. Even a simple comb. Yes, Ajax comb company took out a small ad in the magazine that must have cost them the equivalent of at least 500 combs. It’s the sort of item that today would only be made in China, as we’ve decimated our ability to produce our own goods. Continue reading

Classic Hollywood #96 – An Interview With Her Sexcellency, Sally Rand

The Lady With The Fans, Her Sexcellency Sally Rand

Sally Rand c 1928

Sally Rand bubble dance  photo by Ziegfeld Follies glamorist Alfred Cheney Johnston

Sally Rand photo Daily NewsEarlier in 2020, History Channel’s American Pickers featured a show about buying Sally Rand’s personal memorabilia. Most viewers were probably perplexed as to why host Danielle Colby was so excited. In terms of forgotten superstars, Sally Rand, (born Hattie Helen Gould Beck, 1904-1979) would rank pretty high today. Not so for Ms. Colby who understands and admires the artistry that Sally Rand created. Continue reading

What’s So Unusual About Platt Rogers Spencer’s Tombstone?

This Tombstone Is Unique. Do You Know Why?

The Penmanship of Platt Rogers Spencer

Why is it that when we see an old postcard people remark that the handwriting is so beautiful? The graceful penmanship all looks similar because millions of people in the mid-nineteenth and up to the early twentieth century were taught a single method of handwriting.

This calligraphy type of writing was invented by Platt Rogers Spencer and called the Spencerian style and method of penmanship.

Spencer’s unique tombstone at Evergreen cemetery in Geneva, OH is the first grave marker to display the cursive handwriting that he developed and popularized.

Platt Rogers Spencer

Platt Rogers Spencer was the youngest of a family of ten children. He was born November 7, 1800, in East Fishkill, New York. He lived there and in Windham, N. Y., until he was nine years old, when he moved with his widowed mother and family to Jefferson, Ohio, which was then wilderness country.

There, Spencer developed his love of writing and devoted his life to the art of penmanship. Continue reading

Worst Product Design & Print Advertisement Of The 21st Century

What Are They Selling?

Phallic perfume bottle ad Donna Karan

There is subliminal advertising. Then there is the advertising trying to be subliminal, yet it’s not. It’s a step above subliminal, painfully obvious and the equivalent of blunt force trauma.

It hits so hard that if you turn the page without stopping, you will stop and say “wait a second, what did I just see?” And then turn back a page to double-check.

No, this product shown above is not from the Adam and Eve sex catalog.

I’m not quite sure which magazine this ad appeared in possibly Vogue or an in-flight magazine.  It ran sometime in the early to mid-2000s.

When I saw it, I tore it out, saying to myself this has to be a joke no one would believe this.

Donna Karan phallic perfume ad

Donna Karan Phallic Perfume bottle ad text (click to enlarge –  no pun intended.)

But it’s real. I folded it up showed it to a few friends. Then I saved it in my shoebox full of oddities with the funny poem, the wooden nickel and a mood ring. Continue reading

The “Prince” Who New York’s Prince Street Is Named After

Was New York’s Prince Street’s Name Derived From Royalty?

Prince Street Bromley & Robinson 1879 Atlas of New York

Some of the original names given to the streets of New York when under Dutch and English rule have survived to the present day.

Many streets owe their name to local landmarks or the aristocracy and heroes of 17th and 18th century New York, including Delancey Street, Duane Street and Houston Street named after James De Lancey, James Duane and William Houstoun. Continue reading

The Lighthouse Without A Light

 Sir John Barrow’s Unlit Lighthouse

Lighthouse or Memorial Sir John Barrow

Sir John Barrow Memorial Hoad Hill Ulverston Cumbria, UK

The “lighthouse” is in the town of Ulverston, a bucolic seaside town which hosts various festivals throughout the year. There’s an annual Dickens Festival each November in which many of the citizens dress in Victorian attire. Then there’s “Another Fine Fest” held in June. The title is a takeoff on the admonishing words “Well… that’s another fine mess you’ve gotten us into!” Oliver Hardy says these words in countless films to his comedic partner Stan Laurel. Ulverston’s modern claim to fame is as the birthplace of comedian Stan Laurel, who lived here until he was six-years-old.

Levity aside, viewed from afar, the 100 tower off the northern English coast of Cumbria sure looks like a lighthouse. Continue reading